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Wycombe athlete wins his battle with nerves
BRADLEY Lawrence ended his track season with a sprint finish after overcoming a bout of nerves just in time for the big occasion.
The 16-year-old Wycombe Phoenix Harrier made his big breakthrough when he won steeplechase gold at the South of England Championships, and he backed that up by slicing chunks off his personal best to take a silver on the national stage.
But while he always had the potential to run fast, he admits the results only came after a heart-to-heart with his coach and some serious soul-searching.
He said: “I went to the English School Championships in July and expected to do well, but I came last because nerves got the better of me. I fell over twice in the water jump and ran about 4.50.”
With the South of England and National Championships still to come, Lawrence needed some help from Janet Nash, a doyen of athletics in these parts.
He said: “I went to my coach’s house and had a chat, and she relieved all the pressure.
“Deep down she knew I could get a medal, but she said there was no pressure on me at all and I felt totally different after that. I was certainly more relaxed.”
Lawrence responded by hitting the front early at the South of England Championships, and even when he trailed by five seconds with just 200m he didn’t panic.
Instead, bursting with confidence, he hurdled the water jump that had been his nemesis in his previous race and surged away to win by five seconds.
He said: “The water jump broke me the first time but it made me the second time.
“Normally I step on the barrier but I hurdled it this time. I’d never even done it in training.
“My coach told me afterwards never to do it again but we were neck and neck and I had to take a gamble.
“I made up ten seconds in the last 200m and for a while afterwards I couldn’t believe it.
“It was such a relief after doing so badly in my last race. I was just soaking up the glory.”
He wasn’t finished yet though. His time of 4.32 sent him to the national championships as the fourth fastest on paper, behind two international runners.
But he used his Southern success to slingshot him into the final race of the season and a stunning time of 4.27 was good enough for a silver.
He said: “I went there thinking I’d come fourth. I got a medal at the Southerns and thought anything else would just be a bonus.
“I was running against internationals and just wanted to get a personal best in the last race of the season.
“Now I think that in the race race with the right conditions I could squeeze out another four or five seconds.”
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